A nonprofit that’s raised more than a quarter million dollars in eight months to provide grants to Black small business owners says a diverse range of Kansas City entrepreneurs already has asked for help — and their needs go beyond the obvious.
“Normally when people think of Black-owned businesses here in Kansas City, most immediately think restaurants,” said Brandon Calloway, executive director and co-founder of Generating Income For Tomorrow (GIFT). “That became more apparent this summer during protests, when the movement to ‘Buy Black’ was stronger than ever, and many lists of Black-owned restaurants were being circulated.”
“While supporting Black restaurants is absolutely essential, we knew that Black entrepreneurs were so much more diverse, and our data supports that thought.”
Calloway detailed insights from the nonprofit’s first few months of operation in GIFT’s inaugural Black Business Report. Data was compiled from 56 grant applications submitted to the organization since Oct. 1.
Click here to read the full 2020 Black Business Report.
Of those applying for a $10,000, $15,000 or $25,000 grant from GIFT, businesses ranged from food, human services and skilled labor to real estate, tech and automotive, Calloway said.
“They span over 10 different industries; varying widely from, years of operation, revenue and the products and services they provide,” he said. “Our applicants showed themselves to be a strong source of employment, with 199 total paid employees between them all, with over 60 percent of our grant applicants being businesses owned by Black women.”
GIFT has received requests totaling nearly $1,395,000 — proving incredible need within the community, Calloway said.
“Based on the review of the data collected from our grant applicants, we believe there are clearly two primary needs for Black businesses: realistic access to early startup capital and increased access to technical assistance in the startup phase,” Calloway said.
The nonprofit prioritizes helping Black-owned businesses located or operating on the east side of Troost Avenue, an area specifically created for Black and Brown people through the practices of redlining, which eventually developed into an economic desert, he added.
“Back in May 2020, we set out on a path to raise money, identify, provide grants and technical assistance to worthy businesses in the urban core so they may grow and create jobs for the residents of the east side,” Calloway said, noting GIFT’s mission is far from complete. “The ultimate goal is to build a Black-owned grocery store in the urban core, as well as raise enough money to go beyond our current target area and expand to the entire KC metro area.”
Click here to read more about GIFT’s launch.
Of the first 56 applications to GIFT in 2020, 37 came from within the targeted urban core; 9 from the areas of Grandview, Raytown, Independence and South Kansas City; and 10 from downtown, Westport and Johnson County in Kansas.
Investing in Black-owned businesses is a catalyst not only for wealth creation in the Black community, but for reducing poverty-related crime in these areas, Calloway added.
“It is an undeniably tangible path to create jobs for the people in the urban core and begin to close the racial wealth gap in Kansas City,” he said. “We need to go above and beyond to help Black businesses get started and grow. Favoring Black businesses will be called unfair by some, but it is necessary to take aggressive action to reverse the effects of redlining and create true equity in our city.”
GIFT is on track to award at least $180,000 before the end of April, Calloway said, noting the organization’s ongoing ability to provide grants and collaboration will depend on continued donations from the public.
Click here to learn more about GIFT or to donate to the effort.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.